Ringing the Bells


"Ringing the Bells" is the third song of David Conte's song cycle Sexton Songs. The cycle is for soprano and piano or chamber ensemble and sets the poetry of Anne Sexton.


The audio selection in the player to the right features Marnie Breckenridge, soprano, and Ensemble Parallele with Nicole Paiement, conductor. Used with the permission of the composer. To listen, please click on the track name itself.

Ringing the Bells
by Anne Sexton

And this is the way they ring
\t\tthe bells in Bedlam
\t\tand this is the bell-lady
\t\twho comes each Tuesday morning
\t\tto give us a music lesson
\t\tand because the attendants make you go
\t\tand because we mind by instinct,
\t\tlike bees caught in the wrong hive,
\t\twe are the circle of the crazy ladies
\t\twho sit in the lounge of the mental house,

\t\tand smile at the smiling woman
\t\twho passes us each a bell,
\t\twho points at my hand
\t\tthat holds my bell, E flat,
\t\tand this is the gray dress next to me
\t\twho grumbles as if it were special
\t\tto be old, to be old,
\t\tand this is the small hunched squirrel girl
\t\ton the other side of me
\t\twho picks at the hairs over her lip,
\t\twho picks at the hairs over her lip all day,
\t\tand this is how the bells really sound,
\t\tas untroubled and clean
\t\tas a workable kitchen,
\t\tand this is always my bell responding
\t\tto my hand that responds to the lady
\t\twho points at me, E flat;
\t\tand although we are no better for it,
\t\tthey tell you to go. And you do.

Audio PLaylist